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Why you must take vandalism charges seriously

Even though Halloween is now officially behind us, this will by no means stop many teens and college students from pursuing the time-honored tradition of pulling pranks.

There is, of course, nothing problematic with these antics from a legal perspective provided no one gets hurt and nothing is damaged. While this may seem obvious to most, consider that many young people are nevertheless prone to making impulsive decisions, perhaps discounting the possibility of property damage in their quest to pull of the perfect bit of mischief.

This is significant because the law here in Tennessee adopts a very hard stance against property crimes like vandalism, meaning young people apprehended by law enforcement officials can expect more than just a good talking to.

How does Tennessee law define vandalism?

State law defines vandalism as knowingly causing damage to any personal or real property belonging to "another or of the state, the United States, any county, city, or town" without securing the owner's effective consent.

Here, damage is considered to include everything from destruction and contamination to pollution and tampering with property resulting in monetary loss or substantial inconvenience.

What types of acts would fall under this definition?

While it's impossible to compile a complete listing of all the offenses that would be considered vandalism under state law, some acts that would likely constitute vandalism include graffiti on private or publically owned land, throwing eggs at another's home, "keying" another's automobile, slashing tires, breaking windows and knocking down street signs to name only a few.

How is vandalism punished?

How acts of vandalism are charged and punished by law enforcement officials will depend on the amount of damage caused. In fact, vandalism is charged in the same manner as theft crimes.

For example, a person will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the damaged property is $500 or less. Here, a conviction can result in no more than 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

(For a more complete picture, please see our previous post discussing the punishment for theft crimes and substitute the phrase "stolen property" with "damaged property.")

If you or a loved one have been charged with vandalism or any other property crime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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